Hermit Crab by Luke Richards
A rockpooling trip to Bembridge
in April 2000 revealed something a bit special
and unusual, and it arrived by accident. In the teeming rain I collected
a weed covered rock from a deep rockpool, which was transported home by
being rather crudely wrapped up in a plastic bag, and it was only when
this attractive living rock was placed in the aquarium did a small Hairy
Hermit Crab reveal itself. It turned to be a specimen of Pagurus
cuanensis, which is rarely discovered between the tides.
The Hermit Crab wasn't occupying
a shell for some reason, so I chose a suitable sized shell for it from
a spare lying around in the tank, it soon vacated it without much hesitation.
I isolated the crab from the main tank for a couple of days to study it
closer, and also to avoid any possible risk of it being attacked by the
Wrasse, Symphodus melops, I had at the time. A Worm
Pipefish, Nerophis lumbriciformis, also fell off the rock into the
plastic bag. This Bembridge beach is probably the most easterly location
where this small fish is common on the northern coast of the English Channel.
There have been a few records from Sussex though.
The Hairy Hermit Crab appears
to be a bit of a loner, it doesn't get involved in constant scraps that
go on between the common Pagurus bernhardus, but prefers to keep
out of harms way. The crab was only ever seen munching on seaweed, so initially
I thought the Hairy Hermit Crab was a herbivore, however this theory went
out the window when I recently noticed it eating the leftovers of a dead
shrimp! Unlike the common Pagurus bernhardus which will readily
snatch food from my tongs; the Hairy Hermit Crab used to shy away from
this and usually hide. It took three months before it ventured out into
the open area of the tank to snatch food from my tongs.
Distribution and Bionomics
is reported to be common around the length of the British Isles, but it
is only rarely found on the shore, and this is the first rockpooling record
of this species I have received. There must be hundreds of millions of
small Common Hermit Crabs, Pagurus bernhardus, compared to each
one of this species discovered. It is a much smaller species with a carapace
only attaining a length of 16 mm compared to 35 mm of Pagurus bernhardus.
Therefore, it will only inhabit the small winkle-sized shells. In captivity
it is much hardier, especially in the summer months when it will survive
in uncooled aquaria.
Similar species: Pagurus
Anemone swallowing the discarded shell
of a Hairy Hermit Crab,
cuanensis. The shell contained eggs.
trip in the calm sunshine to Worthing Pier
was rewarded with half a dozen Hairy Hermit
Pagurus cuanensis, one of
the infrequently encountered species seen at low tide.
Gale (> Force 7)
impeded a rockpooling trip to Lancing
Beach as the rocks were not uncovered on the equinoctial low spring
so I ventured further west to Onslow Beach,
fauna was sparse: the most newsworthy discovery was not made until later
when a small gastropod shell collected was
found to contain the small Hairy Hermit
Pagurus cuanensis, one of
only a handful I have ever found between the tides.
recorded my first specimen of the Hairy Hermit Crab, Pagurus
cuanensis, intertidally at Worthing Pier.
It looked very strange at
first, like a small Long-legged Spider Crab, Macropodia
rostrata, living in a Dogwhelk, Nucella,
Hermit Crabs for the younger student (NE Atlantic
Information wanted: Please send any records of this crab, with
location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common
name and any other details to
Project EMail Glaucus@hotmail.com.
All messages will receive a reply.